Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Might've Been: Harper Valley PTA (1981)

In 1968, Tom T. Hall wrote a song that became a huge hit, albeit a 1-hit wonder, for Jeannine C. Riley. "Harper Valley PTA" topped the charts, if memory serves, and still gets some airplay on some oldies stations even today.

More than a decade later, producer Sherwood Schwartz, still looking for a hit that had nothing to do with either of his earlier franchises (Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island) adapted the song into a TV-movie for NBC, with 60's icon Barbara Eden (ex-I Dream of Jeannie) as Stella Johnson, who challenged the stuck-up nabobs and eventually joined the PTA herself. The series launched as a mid-season replacement in January 1981, plugged into a familiar spot for Schwartz----airing on Fridays, where the Brady Bunch used to call home. It held its own against Dukes of Hazzard, enough to warrant a 2nd season.

However, with the new season came some changes. First, the title was shortened to Harper Valley and became just another sitcom. Second, Mills Watson came over from Lobo, which had been cancelled, to play Stella's brother. Watson must've been a contract player for Universal by this point.
Anyway, with Watson added to an ensemble that already included Fannie Flagg and George Gobel, you'd think the show would continue to putter along. Nope. It ended up cancelled.

Following is a season 1 intro, preceded by a network bumper:

No rating. As mentioned before, my house was a Dukes house in those days.

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